Full Metal Jacket introduced us to the now iconic imagery of Private Joker’s helmet with “Born to Kill” emblazoned on it and a peace button pinned to his chest. When an officer questions him about the contradictory nature of these elements of his dress he eventually responds that he was trying to “suggest something about the duality of man,” or “the Jungian thing.”
While Jung was unquestionably getting at something deeper than entertainment preferences that seem to be at odds with one another, that infamous contrast kept floating to the front of my mind when crafting a Spotify playlist so seemingly mismatched that it gave me pause. Suddenly, I had to ask myself, What does it say about me that I have haphazardly thrown The Spice Girls alongside Rilo Kiley and have Dolly Parton immediately following The Dropkick Murphys? Do I have eclectic taste? Or no discernible ability to discriminate between tracks that strike me as a jam-and-a-half and those that are merely familiar?
Many people would simply say, "I like what I like" and move on, but the nature of having a film degree means I have been conditioned to intellectualize popular culture. The knee-jerk reaction is to analyze the value of every work. And perhaps that’s at the root of the problem.
Add to that the "investigate everything" mentality that comes with a journalism degree, and you’ll begin to understand what I’m dealing with here.
Professionally, I traffic as a film critic, but I am and always have been, a movie lover. So while my read-film-as-art self recognizes that Batman Forever is certainly not a great film, and really not even a good one, my 7-year-old self still has Jim Carrey’s every line memorized and will watch for the full duration any time I happen upon it. For the record though, both selves agree that 1995 Chris O’ Donnell is a total fox.
Much like early exposure to sad British pop music is said to have been a formative factor for Tom in 500 Days of Summer, a long-standing love for High Fidelity has led me to completely identify with the idea that “what really matters is what you like, not what you are like.” That may seem utterly ridiculous to some, but, hey, it’s like Rob explains: “Books, records, films — these things matter. Call me shallow but it’s the fuckin’ truth.”
Led by that logic, I believe that my cultural preferences are among the building blocks that inform my personality. By that measure, I’ll always wonder why it is that I’m drawn to any work in particular. However, like Val Kilmer’s Batman comes to understand that he must always be both Bruce Wayne and Batman, I’ve come to embrace the fact that I need Katy Perry’s E.T. as much as Bikini Kill's Rebel Girl.
Perhaps, I should have realized it years ago. After all, John Hughes laid it out plainly enough in The Breakfast Club. “Each one of us is a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal.” I still don’t know if that answered Mr. Vernon’s question, but it tells me that my warring tastes all have a place.
And so, I resolve to love both Mad Men and The Facts of Life, wear my mockingjay pin while I read Tom Robbins, watch the likes of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion and Double Indemnity back-to-back and apologize for none of it.
No more guilty pleasures for me, thanks. I'll consume my entertainment and enjoy it too. As a critic, writer and consumer of culture I’ll keep a wary eye out for not only artistic achievement, but for something, anything to love, simply for what it is, in every work I encounter.
I’m not erratic. I’m eclectic, and that still leaves plenty of room to be discerning, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.
*Don’t call it a memo